Common mistakes in using linking words

Linking words are often wrongly used in terms of a) meaning and b) sentence structure

Many students assume that they need to use a linking word to show the relationship between ideas. “Hook-and-eye” writing is the most important strategy for creating flow – a word or phrase from one sentence is repeated and developed in the next sentence. (This is explained in more detail in the, How do you make text flow section). Hook and eye writing is often enough to create flow – linking words are not obligatory, and in fact, if they are used unnecessarily, will confuse the reader.

In particular, moreover, furthermore and in addition are often overused. These words are used when you are providing further evidence for an argument that you have put forward in a previous sentence. It is not used to signal the introduction of another related idea in the paragraph.

A variety of linking words are used to demonstrate 3 main types of relationships:

  • additional information eg moreover; in addition; furthermore
  • contrasting information eg however; in contrast; conversely
  • cause and effect eg as a result; consequently; therefore

Note that

    a) These words have very specific meanings – the linking words indicating contrast are not all interchangeable.

    b) These words have specific rules of usage:

  • ideas may link across 1 or 2 sentences
  • linking words may be followed by a sentence or a phrase

The Academic Writing in English website of the Finnish Virtual University explains very clearly the differences in meaning between linking words and differences in the grammatical patterns of use.

These rules of usage are illustrated below with the word although

Rule 1: linking across 1 or 2 sentences?

Are the sentences below grammatically correct? Why (not)?

  • Although it was initially criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002). Relationship marketing has arguably stood the test of time.
  • Although, as Veloutsou et al (2002) note, relationship marketing was initially criticised as a passing management fad, it has arguably stood the test of time.
  • Relationship management was initially criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002). However it has arguably stood the test of time.

Look at the sentences below and check you understand when you link within 1 sentence or across 2 sentences.

X Although it was initially criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002). Relationship marketing has arguably stood the test of time -although cannot introduce an independent sentence - it links two contrasting ideas in the same sentence

✓ Although, as Veloutsou et al (2002) note, relationship marketing was initially criticised as a passing management fad, it has arguably stood the test of time.

✓ Relationship management was initially criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002). However it has arguably stood the test of time - however is used to signal contradicting or contrasting ideas across 2 sentences, not 1.

Rule 2: Is a linking word followed by a sentence or a phrase?

Are the sentences below grammatically correct? Why (not)?

  • Although, as Veloutsou et al (2002) note, relationship marketing was initially criticised as a passing management fad, it has clearly stood the test of time
  • Despite it was initially criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002), relationship marketing has arguably stood the test of time
  • Despite being criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002), relationship marketing has arguably stood the test of time
  • Despite initial criticisms from sceptics that relationship marketing was, as Veloutsou et al., 2002a suggests, a “passing management fad”, it has arguably stood the test of time.

Look at the sentences below and check you understand the grammatical usage of although and despite

✓ Although, as Veloutsou et al (2002) note, relationship marketing was initially criticised as a passing management fad, it has clearly stood the test of time - although is followed by a subject + verb

X Despite it was initially criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002), relationship marketing has arguably stood the test of time - despite is not followed by a subject + verb structure

✓ Despite being criticised as a passing management fad (Veloutsou et al., 2002), relationship marketing has arguably stood the test of time - despite can be followed by a gerund (-ing form of verb)

✓ Despite initial criticisms from sceptics that relationship marketing was a “passing management fad” Veloutsou et al.,(2002), it has arguably stood the test of time - despite can be followed by a noun or noun phrase

Where a linking word connects 2 ideas within a sentence, the linking word may be followed by either a dependent clause (looks like a sentence) or a phrase.

Although the number of female engineering graduates has increased substantially in the last decade, there are still very few women in senior positions in the engineering industry - although is followed by a dependent clause ie a structure that looks like a sentence

Despite a substantial increase in the number of female engineering graduates, there are still very few women in senior positions in the engineering industry - despite is followed by a noun phrase, not a structure that looks like a sentence